Gardens and landscapes are thirsty. The average lawn needs more than 6,500 gallons of water per week to stay healthy.
Without a little interference from the government, Florida’s sun-kissed landscapes can’t stay green forever. And that’s where water use restrictions come in. These measures are necessary for everybody’s benefit.
But the rules can be a labyrinth, and taking the wrong turn can land you with a citation.
Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of irrigation water restrictions so you don’t get slapped with expensive fines.
Understanding Irrigation Water Restrictions
Irrigation water restrictions are regulations set by local authorities. They’re meant to manage the amount of water used for outdoor purposes. Watering lawns and gardens are two of the common contenders.
Those 6,500 gallons-per-lawn we mentioned above?
That equates to more than twice the water the average person uses in the same stretch of time. If everybody had a lawn, we’d run out of water pretty quickly.
Water use restrictions prevent people from over-watering their gardens to make sure there’s enough to go around. So, irrigation water restrictions stipulate when residents can irrigate, based on:
- The time of year
- Weather conditions
- Water availability
The Importance of Managing Water Consumption
It’s easy to think of water as an abundant resource. Infinite, even. You turn on the faucet or hop in the shower and it’s there. But the reality is that there’s only enough water if everybody uses it responsibly.
And outdoor water use has a hefty impact on total consumption.
Now, not everybody has a lawn to water. Yet nationally, outdoor water use averages out to 30% of total household water use. In warmer months and hotter climates, it can account for far more.
It’s difficult for residents to understand how much water they’re using. After all, watering your garden doesn’t seem like much. But it all adds up-and through restrictions, authorities regulate consumption and promote water conservation.
How These Restrictions Usually Work
Most water use restrictions involve a watering schedule.
This schedule assigns specific days and times for watering based on property size, type, and location. The intention is to balance water use across different areas and reduce peak demand periods. Like electricity, there is a “water grid” that can only handle so much strain.
Let’s examine the specific restrictions implemented by the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County.
City of Tampa’s Irrigation Water Restrictions
Florida has a hot and subtropical climate. So, water conservation is a top priority for the City of Tampa.
To preserve water, the city has implemented a comprehensive system that assigns watering days based on property numbers. It looks like this:
- Property numbers ending in 0-3 can water on Mondays and Thursdays
- Property numbers ending in 4-6 can water on Tuesdays and Fridays
- Property numbers ending in 7-9 can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays
For instance, if your property number is 0123 Tampa Street, you may water your property on a Monday or on a Thursday. In addition, watering is not permitted between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm.
Violating your watering schedule can result in a fine of up to $450. Multiple citations can lead to a court appearance.
Hillsborough County’s Irrigation Water Restrictions
Hillsborough County’s watering schedule is similar to Tampa, using an address-based system. However, it’s a little more nuanced and restrictions will depend on whether you live north or south of the Alafia River.
Properties south of the river must stick to a strict, one-day schedule. Landscape watering must also take place after 6 pm or between 8.30 am and midday:
- Property numbers ending in 0-1 can water on Mondays
- Property numbers ending in 2-3 can water on Tuesdays
- Property numbers ending in 4-5 can water on Wednesdays
- Property numbers ending in 6-7 can water on Thursdays
- Property numbers ending in 8-9 can water on Fridays
- Properties with a mixed address can water on Saturdays
All properties north of the river use the same watering days as the City of Tampa:
Mondays and Thursdays for numbers ending in 0-3; Tuesdays and Fridays for numbers ending in 4-6; and Wednesdays and Saturdays for numbers ending in 7-9.
What sets the county apart is its consideration of different landscaping types. The county distinguishes between established and newly planted landscapes, tailoring requirements to support the establishment of new plants. The county’s provisions allow for increased watering during the initial phases of plant growth to ensure the success of long-term landscaping projects.
Fines for violating Hillsborough County’s rules start at $100 and can be as high as $500 for subsequent violations.
Comparing Water Use Restrictions Between the Two Areas
While both areas implement strict conditions, Tampa’s regulations tend to be more stringent. Timing restrictions and watering days are year-round, while Hillsborough County offers more flexibility for hand-watering and micro-irrigation.
This tailored approach supports new landscaping projects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. It contributes to the beautification of neighborhoods while making water conservation a top priority.
In both areas, authorities place a strong emphasis on water-efficient irrigation.
Residents are encouraged to adopt drip irrigation or micro-sprinklers to limit their water use. Regulations for hand-watering and reclaimed water tend to be more relaxed in both jurisdictions, leading to greater water conservation efforts across the county.
Compliance and Enforcement
Both jurisdictions take compliance with regulations seriously.
Minor infractions may only be met with formal warnings. Yet most violations lead to penalties-including fines. In severe cases, they can result in a court date and prosecution.
It’s worth remembering that, while these punishments are put in place to safeguard water reserves, the main idea is to encourage responsible water use among residents.
Ultimately, a feeling of shared responsibility will help create a sustainable, water-conscious culture that extends beyond simple watering days.
How to Adhere to Watering Days and Water Use Limits
It’s fairly simple to follow your local watering schedule. You just need to know your assigned watering days and stick to them. Remember that most watering days don’t allow you to irrigate outdoors throughout the day, but limit times to evenings and early mornings.
You should also be mindful of any other restrictions on things like:
- Washing cars
- Filling swimming pools
- Using reclaimed water
It’s important to stay aware of new developments, too. Hot weather depletes water reserves and makes additional, temporary restrictions more likely. So, keep an eye on your local governing body’s website during the summer months.
Manage Your Water Use
Irrigation water restrictions are a necessary evil in managing the water we need.
As populations grow and carbon pollution increases average temperatures, these measures only become more important. So, the next time you enjoy the lush landscapes of Tampa and Hillsborough County, remember the role played by water conservation plays.
And remember to do your part.
Serving the Tampa Bay area since 1997, Oasis Tampa offers full-service landscaping design and irrigation at fair prices. Learn more about our process here.